Joshua Poppel, a bicycle tour guide from New York, considers Northern California to be one of his top cycling destinations. He also enjoys introducing newcomers to the world of cycling for the first time.
Where are you from?
Originally from upstate New York. I just moved to Seattle last year – been here for six months. Being on the west coast is a nice change, a different vibe. One of the great things about being here is on the clear days I can see snowcapped mountains from my window in the apartment.
How long have you been a guide and why did you become one?
Just started with Bicycle Adventures last year when I moved to Washington. But it’s my 17th year leading bike tours. It’s the perfect synthesis of all the things I enjoy in my life. I love working with people; I’m a devout bicyclist who loves to travel and eat good food. It brings all those elements together.
What was your first bike and when did you first learn to ride?
I had a Schwinn dirt bike when I was younger. That was the first bike I got into when I was younger. [But] I’ve always been a road biker, primarily because I love being able to leave out my front door.
Where is your favorite place to cycle in the whole world and why?
Domestically, Northern California is one of my favorite areas to ride in the country—Napa and Sonoma. I find the scenery, the food, and wines are fantastic. But for scenery alone, the Crater Lake and Cascades area of Oregon is one of the more scenic areas in the country.
In addition to guiding bike tours, what else do you do for work or with your time?
I have been a consummate bike advocate for a number of years. I’m currently on the board of directors for the Village Bicycle Project, which focuses on sending bikes down to Africa and teaching people how to ride and how to maintain their bikes. Bikes can be a profound vehicle for change in rural communities.
Aside from cycling, what else do you do for fun?
I love being outdoors – any sort of hiking, outdoors activity. But I also do volunteer work with the Seattle Humane Society.
Why do you like to bicycle? Why did you get into cycling as a guide?
I really got into cycling in high school. I was taking an environmental science class and it opened my eyes. So I got into bicycling as a means for transportation from a [green] utilitarian aspect. [But] there’s something about seeing the world from a seat of a bike that’s appealing. I’ve biked across New Zealand, Denmark and the US and I love that the bike offers an easy means of transportation. But also from a travel point of view, it’s the best way to see a place. It allows you to cover enough ground but also stop and see and smell the roses.
What’s your favorite bicycling memory? OR Is there a cycling experience of yours that’s very vivid and stands out?
With bike touring, I’ve helped people get into bicycling and it’s helped them to get out and explore and become fitter. Getting people into bicycling or selling them a bike – it’s one of the most satisfying things. I love sharing that passion with other people. From the work I do now, and the efforts in Africa, I love seeing what’s going on in the non-traditional cycling communities where biking is becoming more popular.
Do you have any tips or tricks on how to host a great cycling tour?
I think whether it’s a tour with experienced cyclists or novices, there’s always this potential for apprehension, so the best thing to do is to communicate that biking doesn’t have to be competitive. It’s about enjoyment and exploration, putting peoples’ nerves at rest and easing apprehensions. As they’re getting into the sport, you have to not only make sure it’s comfy and enjoyable but you should also make sure there are rewards to it. You structure the rides around a good scenic rest point or food stop. It’s not a hammer-fest thing; it’s at your own pace.